I recently enjoyed a terrific holiday in Zanzibar, the famous spice island in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Tanzania. I will publish my trip reports over the coming weeks:
- Review: Ethiopian Airlines B787 Business Class from Vienna to Dar Es Salaam (today)
- Review: Park Hyatt Zanzibar
- Review: Essque Zalu Zanzibar
- Review: &Beyond Mnemba Island (PHENOMENAL!)
- Review: Hideaway at Nungwi Resort & Spa
- Review: Condor B767 Business Class from Frankfurt to Zanzibar
- Review: KLM B777 Business Class from Dar Es Salaam to Amsterdam
Today (January 24, 2018): Review of Ethiopian Airlines’ Business Class in a B787 Dreamliner from Vienna to Dar Es Salaam via Addis Ababa.
On January 7th 2018, I flew Business Class in an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner from Vienna (Austria) to Dar Es Salaam (Tanzania) with a short layover at Ethiopian Airlines’ hub in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia). Both flight legs were operated by modern B787 Dreamliner aircraft with fully lie flat seats in Business Class (or Cloud Nine as Ethiopian calls its premium cabin product). Note that Ethiopian’s oldest B787s are still flying around with angled lie flat seats, so this review is not representative of all Ethiopian’s Dreamliners. The experience was good, albeit not mindblowing, but did indeed exceed my expectation, and I would heartily recommend Ethiopian Airlines when you consider flying them.
- Trip: Vienna (VIE) via Addis Ababa (ADD) to Dar Es Salaam (DAR)
- Airline: Ethiopian Airlines
- Aircraft type: Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner
- Aircraft registration number: ET-ATI (VIE-ADD) & ET-ATK (ADD-DAR)
- Flight Number: ET725 (VIE-ADD) & ET825 (ADD-DAR)
- Date: January 7, 2018
- On time departure: yes (10.10 pm)
- On time arrival: yes (12.05 pm)
- Miles: 2992 (VIE-ADD) & 1080 (ADD-DAR)
- Flight time: 6 hours (VIE-ADD) & 2.5 hours (ADD-DAR)
- Seat: 2A (both legs)
- Class: business (D)
In this review (more information & photos below my Youtube clip & slideshow):
- Ethiopian Airlines’ Cloud Nine Lounge at Addis Ababa Airport
- Fact & figures about Ethiopian Airlines’ longhaul fleet
- Business Class cabin
- Business Class seat (+ best & worst seats)
- Onboard internet
- Other inflight experiences (views, crew, lavatory)
- My verdict (score)
1. ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES’ CLOUND NINE LOUNGE AT ADDIS ABABA AIRPORT
During my short layover at Addis Ababa’s Bole International Airport, I visited the lounge of Ethiopian Airlines. Ethiopian uses 3 lounges at Addis Ababa’s Terminal 2, which can make things a little confusing:
- The Star Alliance Gold Lounge is designated for use by Star Alliance Gold members, including ShebaMiles Gold members (ShebaMiles is Ethiopian’s frequent flyer program).
- The ShebaMiles Silver Lounge, located on the inside corridor away from the gates in the departure hall, is only accessible to passengers with ShebaMiles Silver status (silver is the tier one step above regular).
- The Cloud Nine Lounge can be used by passengers flying Ethiopian Airlines’ Business Class (or Cloud 9 as Ethiopian calls it) who don’t have Star Alliance Gold or ShebaMiles status. In fact, it’s called Cloud Nine Lounge 2 because this is the lounge in Terminal 2 and there’s another Cloud Nine Lounge located in Terminal 1.
Since I don’t have status anymore with Star Alliance (I switched to American Airlines’ frequent flyer program AAdvantage a long time ago), I spent my layover in the Cloud Nine 2 Lounge. The lounge is quite large and features several separate seating areas with tons of comfortable loungers in addition to a corner with a few dining tables. You better like bright red when visiting this lounge, since the room’s walls and the seats are all red, reflecting one of Ethiopian’s 3 signature colors (the other two are green and yellow). At the end of the colorful and busy lounge is a quiet room where cell phone conversations are not allowed and where you can relax in a few seats with built-in massage functions.
The Cloud Nine 2 Lounge features a fairly large bar area as well as a buffet station, which offers a variety of refreshments, cold and hot snacks, including Ethiopian dishes and international dishes from the East and West. There’s also a traditional Ethiopian coffee station, which is the highlight of the lounge experience since Ethiopian coffee is terrific.
The lounge provides complimentary and fast WiFi, which is great since Ethiopian Airlines does not offer internet on its aircraft, so it’s the only place to check your emails while on route. You do not need to worry when to board your flights as Ethiopian Airlines staff members walk around the lounge and personally come to announce the departure time for each flight.
2. FACT & FIGURES ABOUT ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES’ LONGHAUL FLEET
Ethiopian Airlines is the largest, fastest growing and only consistently profitable airline in Africa, registering an average growth of 25% in the past seven years. In its seventy plus years of operation, Ethiopian has become the continent’s leading carrier, unrivaled in efficiency and operational success. It operates the continent’s youngest long-haul fleet (average fleet age of five years) to more than 100 international passenger and cargo destinations across five continents. Its fleet is currently composed of:
- 6 Airbus A350-900XWB
- 21 Boeing B787 Dreamliners (mix of B787-8 and B787-9)
- 10 Boeing B777 (mix of B777-300ER and B777-200LR)
- 6 Boeing B767-300ER
- 24 Boeing next generation B737 (mix of B737-800 and B737-700)
- 19 Q400 Bombardier
In fact, Ethiopian is the first airline in Africa to own and operate all of these aircraft. The carrier has future plans to receive 19 A350-900s, 4 B787-900s and5 Q400s.
Most of Ethiopian’s longhaul aircraft feature lie-flat seats, except for the oldest ten B787s. The carrier finished the retrofit its B767 and B777 fleet – with installments of flat bed seats – last year, so I assume those older B787 will be the next aircraft to undergo a retrofit.
3. BUSINESS CLASS CABIN
Ethiopian’s B787 Dreamliner features just one large Business Class cabin, located in the aircraft’s nose section. There are 24 seats, spread over 4 rows, in a 2-2-2 configuration, with the seats on the side slightly angled towards the windows, away from the aisle. All seats face forward and have aisle access, except for the window seats (where you have to climb over the legs of your neighbor to reach the aisle). Paired seats are staggered by a couple of inches (cm), which – together with a small partition – adds some privacy in case you are seated next to a stranger (although the seats and cabin are very open) and at the same time allows enough interaction when you are traveling with a companion. The seats are covered in a red fabric, which is the only bright color in an otherwise neutral cabin color palette.
For a seat map of Ethiopian’s B787 Dreamliner, click here.
4. THE BUSINESS CLASS SEAT
I was seated in 2A, both for the red-eye flight from Vienna to Addis Ababa (which lasted 6 hours) and the morning flight from Addis Ababa to Dar Es Salaam (which lasted 2.5 hours).
Before I review the Business Class seat, it’s important to note that not all of Ethiopian’s B787 Dreamliners feature lie-flat seats. The first ten Dreamliner aircraft were delivered with an older Business Class product with angled lie flat seats (170 degrees recline), while the newer Dreamliners have all been delivered with fully flat beds (180 degrees recline). Unfortunately, when you’re booked on one of Ethiopian’s B787s, there’s no way to know upfront which kind of Business Class product you will get (angled versus full lie flat seat). This review only covers the fully lie flat Business Class seat, which is identical to the one that is installed on United Airlines B787s and Qatar Airways’ A330 planes. In a nutshell: it’s a great seat, although it doesn’t offer much privacy and the comfort of the flat-bed will largely depend on the seat that you choose (more on that below).
The soft cushioned seat has a pitch of 78 inch (195 cm), which is defined as the space between one point on a seat and the same point on the seat in front of it. The seat width is 22 inch (56 cm) – defined as the space between the arm rests – which is comfortable but not among the widest in the industry. Each seat features its own 15,4 inch HD TV, which can be controlled by either a handset in the armrest or by directly touching the screen. Below the TV monitor, you find a drawer which is large enough to store your laptop, and a footrest which becomes part of the flatbed once the seat is fully reclined. The size of this footrest differs dramatically depending upon the row: the bulkhead seats in row 1 offer a much larger ottoman as compared to the cramp footrests of all the other Business Class seats (so make sure to choose a seat in the first row if you can).
The arm rest that is shared between paired seats features a small shared table (for drinks and snacks), the seat controls, and the remote control for the entertainment system. It also houses a moderately sized fold-out tray table which needs to be pulled out for any use (after which you are kind of blocked in your seat). On the other side of the seat, behind the headrest, is a small, somewhat difficult to reach storage compartment, where you find a universal AC power outlet and a USB port.
The seat goes fully flat (180 degrees recline), but again, your sleep comfort will depend on the seat you choose: except for the bulkhead seats in row 1 (which come with large ottomans), the footrests are too narrow for a good night’s rest.
What are the best Business Class seats on Ethiopian’s B787s? Click here for a seat map.
- All seats in the cabin are excellent for those traveling with a companion because of the 2-2-2 layout.
- The bulkhead seats in row 1 feature a much larger footrest as compared to all other seats, so these are the seats you want to fly (and sleep) in, although proximity to the galley and lavatory may cause some light noise disturbance from time to time.
What are the worst Business Class seats on Ethiopian’s B787s? Click here for a seat map.
- The 2-2-2 Business Class layout does not make the cabin very attractive for solo travelers, since you will always end up sitting next to a stranger. There is a small screen though between adjoining seats which are also staggered by a couple of inches, creating some extra levels of privacy (albeit not enough in my opinion).
- Window seats don’t offer direct aisle access.
- As mentioned above, the footrests are very narrow (except for the bulkhead seats in rows 1), so not very comfortable for a good night’s rest.
Business Class passengers receive a decent pillow (grey color), a somewhat scratchy blanket (yellow color) and an amenity kit.
On intercontinental flights, the amenity kit has the form of a pouch bag (with hook) and contains an eye mask, ear plugs, socks, pen, toothpick, toothpaste, toothbrush, hairbrush, and lip balm.
On flights within Africa, the amenity kit is a small bag, with a more limited content: eye mask, ear plugs, socks, toothpaste and toothbrush.
On the Vienna to Addis Ababa red-eye flight, both dinner and breakfast were served, although it was only a 6 hour flight. Fyi, the highly acclaimed Middle East carriers Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways serve only one meal on flights of a similar duration.
I choose the following selection from the dinner menu:
- Cold canapés: duck roll toast; salmon & Philadelphia toast with dill; and chicken curry toast with parsley sprig.
- Starter: marinated octopus with red peppers, black olive, artichoke and olive oil with lemon juice.
- Main dish: grilled Beef Tenderloin with truffle sauce and motato gratin and grilled zucchini (my travel companion had the Ricotta ravioli with sautéed spinach, roasted cherry tomato, and permesan cheese).
- Dessert: tropezienne cake stuffed with vanilla custard (although I just had a kiwi because I am on a diet since the start of 2018).
- Main dish: choice of orecchiette with beef Carbonara, or lentil with spinach and blood orange (both dishes served with a pesto salad).
- Dessert: dark chocolate brownie
Ethiopian coffee and tea was served on both flights.
Overall, the food was just acceptable but uninspiring for an otherwise decent Business Class product.
Ethiopian’s B787 Dreamliners feature a modern inflight entertainment system with a high-resolution 15,4 inches screen in front of each seat and in-seat power outlets (the inflight audio and video entertainments are accessible with your own mobile devices /tablets). The entertainment selection is more limited as compared with other carriers, but enough to keep you entertained during a few hours. Noise-cancelling headphones are offered as well.
8. ONBOARD INTERNET
Unfortunately, Ethiopian Airlines does currently not offer wireless internet on any of its aircraft.
9. OTHER INFLIGHT EXPERIENCES
# VIEWS: The first flight from Vienna to Addis Ababa took place during the night and there was no view at all. I was surprised that the pilots did not turn on the aircraft’s fuselage lights during landing (we landed in pitch black darkness). The second flight offered views of the African savannah all the way from Addis Ababa to Dar Es Salaam. However, the best views were enjoyed on the ground shortly after landing in Addis Ababa as we were treated to a magnificent sunrise from the airport’s terminal.
# CREW: The crew on both flights was efficient, highly professional and superfriendly (although they did not interact much with the passengers; not necessarily a bad thing).
# LAVATORY: There’s one lavatory exclusive for Business Class passengers in the galley behind the cockpit, and there are two more in the galley between the Business Class cabin and forward Economy Class cabin, although they are used by passengers seated in both cabins.
10. MY VERDICT
- Seat comfort (upright): 8/10
- Seat comfort (bed position): 7/10
- Food (quality): 7/10
- Food (quantity): 9/10
- Inflight entertainment : 8/10
- WiFi: 0/10 (not available)
- Service: 9/10
- Cabin design: 8/10
- Overall experience: good: 7/10